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Who was the cross satisfying?

Please forgive my most elementary synopsis below of the much more intelligently written Chapter 5 in The Cross of Christ, “Satisfaction for Sin”.The-Cross-of-Christ-by-John-Stott

Who or what was God having to “satisfy” by having Jesus die for our sins?

John Stott suggests these four possibilities:

1. Satisfying Satan
Because of sin, man now belonged to Satan. If God wanted to reconcile with his people, he had to swap blood for blood in a deal with the devil to get his people back.


God doesn’t have to arm wrestle with the devil over anything. Stott writes, “We deny that the devil has any rights over us which God is obliged to satisfy.”

2. Satisfying the Law
Because God put the Law in motion, he had to keep it himself, like King Darius’s obligation to put Daniel in the lions’ den because of an edict he signed (Daniel 6).

Not exactly. I reason: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. “We cannot think of God as caught in a technical legal muddle of this kind. …The real reason why disobedience of God’s moral laws brings condemnation is not that God is their prisoner, but that he is their creator.”

3. Satisfying God’s justice
Because man couldn’t pay the debt he owed, somebody had to. So God paid it. Justice was served.

Well, in one sense, yes, but like the second possibility, this view also subjects God to be a prisoner of his own making, in the former to the Law, and here to his sense of justice. Such denies the full character of God.

4. Satisfying himself  
All of God, including his love (not just his justice), was satisfied through Jesus’ death. God is divinely self-consistent. All his character traits live in unison.


The cross of Christ “is the event in which God makes known his holiness and his love simultaneously, in one event, in an absolute manner” (Emil Brunner).

Thus love and justice meet. While it may be hard for us to imagine God “as the Judge who must punish evil-doers and of the Lover who must find a way to forgive them,” God is both, not in contradiction to each other, but in harmony.

And so he sacrificed for us, satisfying not only himself, but us too.
Such holiness. Such love. Such grace.

* * *

More from Chapter 5 at Challies

Previous chapter summaries


Barbara H. said...

My son's youth pastor pointed out once that the situation in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe between Aslan and the White Witch over Edmubd's sin was more like #1 there, and that that wasn't how it really was -- God didn't owe the devil any satisfaction.

I don't see God's satisfying the Law and His own justice as imprisoning Him, but rather as His being consistent with what He decreed. But I do agree that those are a part of the bigger picture, as you stated so well in #4 through the end.

tinuviel said...

I think you summarized very nicely, in a way that should help those with no intention of reading the book. Barbara (or her son's youth pastor) makes an excellent point about LWW, too.

This book is so rich with content! I'm listening to the ChristianAudio recording while I do my PT work, but it's a book that demands repeated readings with pencil in hand, so the print copy is likely in my future.

Thanks for the helpful ideas about comment conversations. Now I appreciate even more your effort at responding. Blessings to you and yours!

Lisa notes... said...

It’s interesting that you bring up Aslan and the White Witch…I’ve been reading our friend Rebekah’s chapter summaries that she wrote last year and she brought up the same point.

By the way, she is much more thorough in all her summaries and I highly recommend them for anyone really wanting to get the gist of “The Cross of Christ” much better than what I’m offering here. :-)

The link is:

BekahCubed—The Cross of Christ

Lisa notes... said...

I’m not sure how helpful my summaries are to anybody but me. ha. But in writing a summary it forces me to go back through the chapters and try to make better sense of them. I find that I learn far more that way, and I’m more apt to remember it.

I understand the “print copy” philosophy with this book. I had debated about getting it on my Kindle, but opted for the print copy precisely for the reason you said: Stott’s writing is too dense for me to read digitally—I need to see the words on the real page with a real highlighter in my hand and be able to flip back through those pages later. I do love my Kindle but it does have certain limitations for me when I study, at least mentally.


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